Month: February 2013

2013 Book #9: Love in the Time of Cholera

cholera.jpgI’m not usually one to write a blog post immediately after I finish a book, but here goes. (Okay, I’m not writing immediately after. It was Litter Box Time, and it couldn’t be avoided without a mutiny.) I’ve been meaning to read Love in the Time of Cholera for a couple of years, ever since I read One Hundred Years of Solitude and declared it my Favorite Book Ever (or at least my favorite book of 2011). It’s my third completed Gabriel Garcia Marquez book of four attempts. I’ll somehow get through Autumn of the Patriarch one day and explain. Or you can try reading it. Believe me, you’ll understand.

So. Here we were with One Hundred Years of Solitude (have I mentioned it’s quite possibly my Favorite Book Ever?) and Chronicle of a Death Foretold, both of which I’ve written about in this blog. The former is better than the latter and the latter reminds me of the former and so on. I’ve talked about it before. Both are good and certainly worth a read. What all that means is that I had high expectations for Love in the Time of Cholera.

I’d put off reading it for a long time for various stupid reasons. First, when I’m trying to hit a goal of 50 books per year (as in 2011, the first, pre-diabeetus part of 2012, and this year, I’ve tl;dr-ed most longer books. (Okay, there are huge examples of that being a lie, like Suttree, The Satanic Verses, and Crime and Punishment to name only a few. I didn’t say that my tl;dr-ing wasn’t arbitrary). And Love in the Time of Cholera isn’t as long as any of those or as long as One Hundred Years of Solitude. But I digress. Anyway, Marquez isn’t exactly a fast, easy read – but he flows so smoothly.

Love in the Time of Cholera is about long-unrequited love. Florentino Ariza sees Fermina Daza when both of them are young, and he instantly falls in hopeless love. They exchange love letters for years, but she ends up marrying Juvenal Urbino, a more attractive, wealthy doctor from a “better” family. They live their separate lives, Florentino Ariza never giving up hope of winning Fermina Daza, until they meet again after Juvenal Urbino’s death. (I promise I’m not ruining everything – we learn about this at the beginning.) The point of view fluctuates (remaining third-person) from character to character throughout the novel, so we learned about the past and the present in very personal bits.

And now, the more I write about it, the more I like it. Though it’s not my favorite of Marquez’s novels, it’s very well-written. The way the perspectives interweave is amazing, and the language flows oh so smoothly (that is, of course, thanks, in part, to the translator, but hey). It’s not a fast read – no Marquez I’ve encountered is – but it’s a lovely one.

But here’s why I don’t like it as much as One Hundred Years of Solitude – or one of the reasons: I got annoyed with Florentino Ariza, his incessant romanticism of Fermina Daza, and his (sometimes gross) affairs with other women throughout his lifetime. I found him tiresome after a while. And I think I mentioned gross (you’ll know what I mean when you get to that part).

Go and read it. Curl up somewhere comfortable, and expect to spend several hours glued to this book. You won’t be sorry you did.

2013 Book #8: Guards! Guards!

Guards-Guards2Terry Pratchett’s novels can be pretty unpredictable, but they are predictably good. I’ve read eight of them now, and I’ve liked them all. (Okay, both of those things are lies, kind of. I’ve actually read eight-and-a-half of his novels, if you count Good Omens, which he wrote with Neil Gaiman, and which I did not like, though I think both authors are awesome.) Guards! Guards! is the eighth novel in Pratchett’s Discworld series (of just under 40 novels), and it’s definitely one of my favorites. I’ve been reading the series in the order they were published (and very slowly), though that’s not necessary at all. If you like high fantasy, especially funny, tongue-in-cheek high fantasy, you should give these a try.

Guards! Guards! is set in Ankh-Morpork, the biggest city on the Disc(world). It’s governed by a Patrician, and various guilds, including the Thieves, Wizards, and Assassins, keep each other in line. An order of thieves decides that they’d do the city good to use magic and bring in a dragon because that would mean the true heir to the throne would emerge to kill it. Things, of course, go wrong, and the Night Watch, a bunch of not-too-bright city guards, gets involved. And so on.

This one seems to be the best known of the Discworld novels, though a movie was made of the first, The Color of Magic, in the 1990s, starring the actor who played Sam Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings. I watched the first few minutes and turned it off because it looked so stupid, but I’ve said before that I’m generally not a movie person, so you might have more patience with it than I did. Anyway, Guards! Guards! is a super-fun book of the easy-to-read, mass market paperback type. I know, it’s generally not my thing, but I guess I’m not always entirely predictable.

I had a really hard time not jumping straight into the next Discworld novel, Eric, but that was mostly because I never know what to read after fantasy novels. Instead, I chose Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which has exactly nothing in common with Discworld (unless you count the modicum of magical realism, but hey). I like to spread out books in a series, but there are so many in this one that I don’t think I need to be too careful – and Pratchett is still writing, even with early-stage alzheimer’s, which makes me very sad (the alzheimer’s, not the writing, of course. And he has help).

2013 Book #7: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

breakfastattiffanysBreakfast at Tiffany’s isn’t anything like what I expected. For that matter, Truman Capote isn’t, either. I guess I didn’t know what to expect. I haven’t seen the movie, and, even though I know exactly nothing about Capote, I’ve always kind of arbitrarily lumped him in with Albert Camus. Maybe because they both have such serious names? But it’s funny because they aren’t alike at all.

The novella (it’s really short) is about a girl named Holly Golightly. She lives in New York, has parties, and goes to parties. From the outside, her life seems simple and happy. Except our narrator, Fred, gets to know her about as well as anyone can, and things aren’t that simple. Turns out she ran away from home at 14, and her brother, who she adores, is fighting in the war – among other things: I’m not going to spoil it for you, though you’ve probably seen the movie anyway.

I really enjoyed Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It’s one of those books (I’ve run into a lot of them lately!) that are simply fun to read. It went by really quickly, and I was intrigued the whole time. I might even have to see the movie now. (I especially liked that Holly had a big orange cat. I have one of those, too, you know.)

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2013 Book #6: Player Piano

Player Piano is Kurt Vonnegut's first novel, and it's not my favorite. I lump it in with novels like Slaughterhouse Five (my least favorite), the more serious, less ridiculous ones. My favorites are The Sirens of Titan and Cat's Cradle, if that says anything.

Player Piano is a dystopian novel, possibly set not too far in the future, though a date is never given. I think of it more as an alternate history. It was published in the early 1950s, and it feels like it's set then, even though the world is so different. After a major war, which I assume was World War II, those in power decided that the general public was inefficient at work and that machines could do a better job. As most people's jobs were taken over by machines, they were given houses with up-to-date technology, menial jobs in the army or civic jobs, like asphalting roads, and were expected to live comfortably and quietly. While most people exist in that world, called Homestead, only engineers with graduate degrees have high-paying jobs keeping up the machinery (everyone's a doctor!). They make lots of money and are also expected to live happily and quietly. But, of course, there are discontents on both sides, and they finally decide to do something about it. Then Things Happen.

I don't dislike this novel. I really enjoyed reading it, in fact. The end left me unsatisfied, though. It was too predictable and, for a dystopian novel, pretty stereotypical. Player Piano was published about three years after 1984, and I assume Vonnegut had read both that novel and We, among others, and as awesome as Vonnegut usually is, I'm surprised that he didn't come up with something more creative. In the end, I was disappointed.

2013 Book #5: Robinson Crusoe

Here's another classic novel I didn't know enough about. Or, at least, not as much as I should – I have an English degree, you know. I knew it was about a guy who was trapped on a deserted island, and that was about it. Wait. that is about it. Most of it, anyway.

Robinson Crusoe is about a young man in his twenties (and later in his fifties) who wants to go adventuring at sea. His father tells him it's a dumb idea and that he'll be cursed if he does. So Crusoe goes anyway, of course, and meets with seafaring disaster after seafaring disaster. He finally ends up with his own plantation in Brazil, but he and the other landowners get greedy and decide to make a journey to Africa for some slaves. Since Crusoe has experience with boats, he's to head the mission. Except that he doesn't get too far away before a great storm tears his boat to pieces, and he ends up the only survivor on a deserted island. So begins the bulk of the book: he learns to live there. He doesn't know how to do much, but he figures it out. And there's a lot about God and how Crusoe ends up thankful that he is there rather than with the rest of society. And there are cannibals.

Meh.

I really didn't think I'd finish this novel on time (I'm going for fifty again!), if at all. I was bored for the vast majority of it. How people think middle schoolers will love this one is beyond me. It seems like an argument in favor of abridged novels. Here's an example. Crusoe tells his story of landing on the island and getting what he can off the ship in first person. The whole story, in detail. Then, he's like, Oh yeah, I kept a journal until I ran out of ink. Here it is. So then you get to read the whole story again. Sigh. Granted, that's the only time it's that ridiculous, but Daniel Defoe definitely qualifies as long-winded. Yesterday, I was around 60% (I read it on my Kindle, and I have no concept of how long that book is), and, determined to finish it today, I said I'd read 20% a day. I got near 80%, and it finally got interesting, so I finished it last night. I won't spoil it for you if you don't know how it ends, though (hint, hint) Crusoe is pretty obvious about it with all the direct references to after, and there's the writing about it in first person past tense, and all.

Oh! Remember that stupid, unnecessary wolves scene in The Day after Tomorrow? Where they were on the ship and attacking everyone and bad CGI and such? Yeah, well if you liked that, Robinson Crusoe has its own stupid, unnecessary wolves scene you can look forward to!

Wait. Why did I give this thing three stars on Goodreads? I guess it's because it didn't suck that badly, and it didn't make me mad like Madame Bovary did. After the last few novels, I think I'll go with something more recent. Vonnegut, maybe?

 

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